RoK's Park, Japan's Abe hold first formal bilateral talks

The Republic of Korea (RoK)'s President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held their first formal bilateral talks on November 2 since both leaders took office, seeking to move beyond a bitter wartime history that has plagued ties between two of Washington's key Asian allies.

The meeting is a diplomatic breakthrough for Abe, who has sought talks with Park amid a push by the United States for Japan and the RoK to improve relations in the face of an increasingly assertive China.

Abe took office in late 2012 and Park in early 2013. Officials said there were no plans for a joint press conference following the discussions, which began around 10:00 a.m. (08:00 p.m. EDT) in Seoul.

The Asian neighbors have struggled to find common ground over Japan's 1910-1945 colonization of the RoK, particularly the issue of "comfort women", as the mostly Koreans forced into prostitution at Japanese wartime military brothels are euphemistically known in Japan.

Park said in an interview with Japan's Asahi Shimbun daily last week that resolving the issue was central to better ties with Japan.

The RoK says Japanese leaders have repeatedly failed to properly atone for wartime atrocities.

Japan, which says the issue of compensation for "comfort women" was legally settled by their 1965 diplomatic treaty and that it stands by a 1993 government apology, worries that even if it takes fresh steps, the RoK will decline to bring the issue to a close.

The Park-Abe meeting came after a summit of leaders of the RoK, Japan and China on November 1 where they agreed to restore what had been an annual forum to work toward greater economic integration and regional cooperation.

Reuters